Red light enforcement cameras are effective in reducing the number of injury collisions, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Photo: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Last week, the Menlo Park City Council voted to extend its red light photo enforcement program for an additional five years and add a fifth red light camera at the intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street, where 20 collisions have resulted in 14 injuries and one fatality since 2008. A temporary test camera installed at the intersection on March 11 recorded 217 red light violations by drivers in only 12 hours.
On August 24, 2011, 64-Year-Old Richard Buckley was killed in a collision with a car while riding his bicycle across the six-lane Bayfront Expressway at that intersection during this lunch break. Buckley, who worked at nearby Tyco Electronics, began cycling for exercise after suffering a heart attack a few years earlier.
The intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Willow Avenue, the entrance to Facebook’s headquarters, was the site of two fatalities resulting from side-impact collisions in which drivers ran a red light.
In November 2009, 6-year-old Menlo Park resident and Laurel School student Lisa Xavier was killed when her family’s car was struck in the intersection by the driver of a Ford Mustang heading north on Bayfront Expressway who ran the red light. The driver, suspected to be the Mustang’s owner, local resident Shannon Fox, was never apprehended. In April 2007, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam was killed as the passenger in a side-impact collision, after his driver, UC Berkeley graduate student Kevin Jones, ran the red light while turning left onto Willow Road. Jones was charged with vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to 200 hours of community service.
Lisa Xavier (left) and David Halberstam (right) were both killed in side-impact collisions resulting from drivers running a red light at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road in Menlo Park. Photos: San Jose Mercury News (left), San Francisco Chronicle / Michael Maloney (right).
A total of four red light photo enforcement cameras were installed a year after Halberstam was killed, one at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road, two at El Camino Real and Ravenswood Avenue (facing north and south), and one at El Camino Real and Glenwood Avenue (facing north).
Heyward Robinson, who served on the City Council when the cameras were installed, described them as “a cost effective means of enforcing an important traffic law,” in an email to the current City Council. “They operate 24/7 with no salary, overtime, or benefit costs. The bottom line is that our roads and community are safer with these cameras than without them,” he wrote.
The rate of red light running has indeed dropped steadily every year since the cameras were installed, with the number of citations issued dropping from 6,381 in 2009 to 3,898 in 2012, a reduction of about 40 percent. The number of collisions that have occurred at the camera-enforced intersections dropped from 141 in the five years before the cameras were installed to 103 in the five years after they were installed, according to Menlo Park police.